Unicorn Walking: My Quarter Marathon Walk

So, yesterday I completed my quarter marathon walk for Comic Relief. I woke up to driving rain and some really strong winds, so I was a little worried that I’d be soaked in my Unicorn Onesie.

Ah, yes, I was doing the +7 miles walk dressed as a unicorn.

When I started fundraising in February donations were a little slow in coming in, so I decided that I’d appeal to my friends and family’s meaner instincts and give them a chance to embarrass me. I said that if I hit my £70 target by the 1st of March I would do the walk in a unicorn onesie.

It had the desired effect and soon the donations were rolling in and I smashed the £70 barrier with two days of February to go. In fact, the donations kept coming in and I reached £160, more than double what I’d aimed for (£125 on JustGiving, £35 via Facebook).

So, I got my unicorn onesie on and headed to Limpert Bay, where I would be starting my walk heading East along the coast for Barry Island. The weather had eased off, and while there was a bit of wind coming off the sea, conditions were okay and I was quietly confident, while still aware that I was pushing myself to walk further than I had before.

Luckily, I wouldn’t be doing it alone as my little sister had joined me for the walk, and hopefully the Comic Relief balloons she was carrying would let people know that there was a reason for the walk and not just some weirdo wandering about dressed as a mythical horned horse.

unicornwalkstart

We got going and the first stretch was pretty easy, the wind kept off us by a sea wall and the path tarmac. After a while we lost this and had to walk along a track which got a bit muddy in places, but all was good.

Then we hit what was the first of several hills as the Wales Coast Path would take us up and down some of the cliffs. We trooped up a ton of steps and by this point realised we were about two miles, or 1/4-1/3 of the way through. For most of the way so far we’d seen a handful of dog walkers who seemed a little bemused, but surprisingly I felt very little embarrassment. Was it the fact I knew I was doing something good? Or that the balloons answered their question as to what was happening? Or was the spirit of the unicorn taking over? Yeah, it’s probably not the last one.

At the top of the hill the path took us through a caravan park and we got plenty of confused and amused looks from windows as we passed, before we found ourselves moving onto walking along fields on a route which rose and fell with the coastline. For a long stretch we were on a narrow, muddy track where finding solid footing was tricky.

This slowed us down quite a bit, and also the branches overhead claimed one of the balloons. But we ploughed on, chatting away and joking about how a mud covered Unicorn Chris would make a funny photo, albeit one I hoped to avoid. We dropped down again, before climbing once more, but the route here was less tricky and we were both feeling good.

Around this point we reached a large standing stone which told us we were at “The most Southerly point”.

“Of what?” My sister asked.

“Wales, I guess.”

It turned out I was right, but the standing stone’s inscription had faded. A less impressive plastic sign told us we were at Rhoose Point and as far South as you can go in Wales. I suggested that in a few years we could try to walk from here to Ynys Mon, the most Northern part of Wales. But this would have to be a few years, and a lot of training away. But it shows that I was feeling pretty good at this point.

This good feeling stayed with us until we neared Porthkerry, where we faced a steep downward portion of the route that had been reduced by recent rainfall into a mudslide. We managed to get about half way down okay, although our pace had slowed considerably.

unicornroute
Where I walked, from the left to the right,

Unfortunately, I got in my own head and started to think about falling too much. If I’d kept going I would have been better off, but overthinking it made me panic a little. I got a grip on myself and managed to make it to the bottom okay. We were now within sight of several key landmarks and feeling good.

Then came the hardest uphill portion of the whole walk, a large, steep stairway which probably would have been a challenge on it’s own, but around five miles in was agony. By the top I was gasping for breath, my thighs on fire and feeling knackered. I chugged some water and started to fear cramping.

There was a couple sat on a bench and for the first time I felt truly self conscious, knowing that I looked a state, huffing and red faced. The unicorn magic was clearly wearing off.

We walked on across a large field which was largely flat and only rose and fell in gentle stages. I caught my breath, my legs stopped aching and I started to feel good again.

Then we dropped down at the Knap and from there on we knew we were on road again, and wonderfully close. Unfortunately, the rain started and I got a little damp, but the end in sight, I wasn’t going to stop.

Finally, we reached Barry Island and headed for our finishing line, along the front, just up from Marco’s.

The walk had taken 3 hours and 56 minutes, much longer than planned, but had I scouted the route better I would have been more realistic. The hills and the mud really slowed up the pace and I think if I did a flatter, better paved route I could beat that time.

What I will say is that despite the aches, the rain and the tiredness, I felt immensely proud at the finishing point. There was a real sense of achievement, I’d set myself a challenge and met it, and it leaves me optimistic for facing fresh challenges as I move forward, and hopefully getting fitter will help with those. I’m hoping to consistently exercise more and lose weight so maybe in a year or so I’ll try this route again to see how I do.

unicornwalkend

I couldn’t have done it without my sister, as having someone with me made me feel safer and the company definitely helped to distract and make it more fun. Also, it was really great to see WoM waiting at the finish line to drive us home, and the cups of tea she had brought were extremely appreciated.

My Just Giving page is still active, so if you want to donate a bit more, you can do so here.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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